My Strengths Training for Life (MST4Life)
As applied academics, achieving and monitoring the impact of our research is part of what we do. This impact case provides an overview of the MST4Life programme and how it has influenced young people, organisational practices, and the issue of youth homelessness.
At the end of this page, you will also find out how we raise awareness of our research and influence practice and policy through published guidance.
Introduction to the mst4life project
Youth homelessness is an issue affecting approximately 80,000 young people in the UK.
Our work with athletes led us to develop a mental skills training programme - MST4Life - for young people experiencing homelessness. MST4Life focuses on helping young people recognise and develop their personal strengths, to support their wellbeing and pursuit of their aspirations and social inclusion via engagement in education, employment and training.
Ultimately, our work aims to help reduce statutory homelessness in Birmingham and surrounding areas.
From day one, the design, delivery and evaluation has been co-produced with our community partners and young people themselves. Through an action research approach, we are constantly consulting with stakeholders to keep the programme and its evaluation relevant to those it serves.
MST4Life was the first sport psychology intervention to be delivered in a housing service for homeless young people with multiple barriers to independence
An independent evaluation found that MST4Life improved the likelihood that homeless young people transitioned into employment, education or training and independent tenancy by 30 percentage points
MST4Life has influenced jobs creation and workforce planning in a local youth homeless service who set up a new employability team. These new job roles include co-delivering MST4Life and the role of frontline support workers was also modified to include a more explicit remit to help young people develop their mental skills and employability prospects
how our research findings have informed practice
Our research has shown that the mental skills training (MST) approach used in sport settings can be adapted to improve the well-being and chances of employability for some of the most socially excluded young people with a range of support needs (e.g. expectant or young mothers, learning difficulties, behavioural difficulties, substance misuse)
We have found that adolescents require a diverse set of personal and interpersonal mental qualities to be successful performers, and that the nature, development and regulation of these psychological characteristics depends on the performer's developmental stage and social environment
We have also established the essential factors required to help reach and maintain engagement of homeless young people: be led by participants; provide opportunities to develop social connections, competence and independence; and be experiential, fun and group-based
In Phase 1 of the MST4Life programme, participants engage in 10 experientially-oriented sessions informed by both sports and clinical psychology
These sessions are designed to be fun, allow participants to engage in a variety of ways, and focus on developing an awareness and practice of mental skills
After Phase 1 of their MST4Life training programme, participants have an opportunity to attend a four-day residential in the Lake District
Alongside a range of outdoor adventure activities, participants take on a challenging hike in the mountains, putting their physical and mental skills to the test